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Obama Desperate to Win Back Business Vote

Tuesday, 13 Jul 2010 03:23 PM

 

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The White House moved on Tuesday to ease simmering tensions with the business community, telling corporate executives it has an "open door" and pledging to listen to their ideas.

President Barack Obama has come under criticism by some business groups, which charge that the administration's regulatory and fiscal agenda is leading to uncertainty and is dampening job growth.

The healthcare reform legislation, financial regulatory reform and proposals to cap carbon emissions are cited by some in corporate America as examples of regulatory overreach. Business groups have also criticized Obama's fiscal policies, warning of the danger of high deficits.

The administration has responded with efforts to reach out, including a June 30 meeting with the Business Roundtable, one of the main U.S. business lobbying groups.

As a follow-up to that meeting, the White House promised the group it would listen to its input, according to a copy of a letter from senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett to the Business Roundtable released on Tuesday.

"While we may disagree on some issues, we have an open door and are always willing to consider input and ideas from everyone, including the business community," Jarrett wrote.

The Obama administration has also undertaken a review of federal regulations and sought input on how to make them less burdensome to businesses.

REVIEW OF REGULATIONS

"Our approach to regulation is a pragmatic, commonsense one that is evidence-based and data-driven," said White House deputy communications director Jen Psaki. "We want regulations that protect the health and well-being of the American people while promoting, and not undermining, economic growth."

The Business Roundtable brings together chief executives of companies including American Express Co, Honeywell International Inc and Boeing Co.

The group's current chairman is Ivan Seidenberg, chief executive of Verizon Communications. Seidenberg, in a speech last month, complained of a "disconnect" between Washington and the business community he said was harming job growth.

But in correspondence with Jarrett following the June 30 meeting, his tone was cordial. Seidenberg listed some concerns he hoped the administration could address, including a corporate tax structure that businesses view as hampering their competitiveness, deficit reduction and trade issues.

He said his group supports a "common goal" of boosting jobs and spurring economic growth.

The release of the correspondence comes a day before another large business group, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, is scheduled to hold a "Jobs for America Summit."

Chamber CEO Tom Donohue is expected to issue an open letter to Obama and Congress that will urge "immediate action to address the new regulatory stranglehold placed on America's job creators."

Tensions with the business community could pose political problems for Obama at a time when his Democrats are trying to fend off a challenge to their dominance in Congress ahead of the November midterm elections. Republicans are eager to try to pin an "anti-business" label on Obama.

The administration also has other reasons for wanting to avoid a rift with the business community.

U.S. business are holding onto some $1.8 trillion in cash, according to the Federal Reserve. The Obama administration wants to encourage them to invest some of that money to help jump-start a U.S. economic recovery that has so far been lackluster.

© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

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